Supporting colleagues with mental health obstacles

Steve Gibbeson is the Program Manager for HealthPathways Illawarra Shoalhaven and works for the Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District in collaboration with COORDINARE, the Primary Health Network for South Eastern NSW. 

Whilst Steve considers himself to be a very fortunate person, he considers it’s time to share his story about coping with mental health obstacles.

Steve was recently featured in the Illawarra Mercury about his family’s loss of loved ones to suicide and the efforts made by his family to raise awareness and to support initiatives such as the Illawarra Shoalhaven Suicide Prevention Collaborative.

The article emphasised his nephew and family / friends efforts in raising approximately $400,000 (at last count) for the Black Dog Institute through the ‘Ride for Jase’ journey. It also described how Steve and others in the Thirroul community have created an active, inclusive and supportive environment at the surf club.

The article touched many people and Steve was personally contacted by a few who related to his family’s experience and were appreciative of their efforts to support mental health initiatives.

Steve realises he can share more, especially around his own struggles and ways he has kept moving forward.

On at least five occasions during Steve’s career he has sought general practice support to cope with perceived workplace issues or a mindset needing a reset. That support has included visiting psychologists to vent in a safe and confidential environment and gaining coping strategies, some of that based on cognitive based therapy.

On occasion he has been prescribed anti-depressant medication to see him through struggling times but has always felt a stigma and taken himself off the prescription too soon. It is only recently that he has felt more content and stable on the medication. Whilst it was a suggestion from his GP, it’s also a personal choice at this time in his life.

Steve has now been on medication for 18 months and feels it is not impacting on his sporting endeavours, fitness or alertness, and instead of struggling through those few days per week where he feels overwhelmed, he has gained a steadiness to his mind.

“What I am sharing in this article is not uncommon. I have learned that many of us seek support in different ways at moments in our lives, and often keep it to ourselves. That’s okay. I also think that many more suffer in silence or put on that brave face thinking they are alone or that others will think less of them if they open up," said Steve.

"Bravery comes at a cost, so be brave if it’s needed but also look for longevity. Support is available such as the Employee Assistance Program, your local GP, family, friends or others in the community.”

As a community we can be prepared to assist those in need. Listening to and supporting a colleague, friend or family member during their struggling moments is extremely valuable. It can save a life. Please consider doing the Question, Persuade and Refer (QPR) online training. As individuals and a community we can do our bit to assist each other through struggling moments.

The more people trained in QPR, the more likely that someone who is struggling will get the help they need. We need your help to spread the word. 

Find out more about QPR training here.